DIY MFA Book Club: Supporting Character Archetypes

The prompt today from DIY MFA Book Club is: what is your favourite supporting character archetype (and why)?

The role of supporting characters, of course, is to do just that, be supportive of the main character. Their purpose, their only purpose, is to illuminate aspects of the protagonist. Which is, of course, why we need to have supporting characters who play different roles. Gabriela listed the main types as Villain, Love Interest, BFF, Mentor, and Fool.

I’ve been thinking about this on and off all day and I haven’t really come to a conclusion (which is probably interesting in itself!). I think that my favourite supporting character archetype is a combination of the love interest and BFF. As I reflect on it, I rarely separate the two (probably because that’s my own personal situation (awww)). I’m not so keen on writing stories in which people meet a love interest, unless it’s the very initial, pre- or very early courtship timeframe. I am more interested in established relationships that are not going through a great deal of conflict (expect, perhaps, external conflict). The conflict in my stories happens elsewhere and I often write protagonists who have rather settled personal lives. (Or their lives are settled and then ‘something happens’ but it is not relationship-type somethings.)

I do know the archetype that is my least favourite and that is the villain. I like my antagonists to either be non-human/sentient or to be very human. And by the latter I mean that they are multifaceted, conflicted people doing the wrong thing for complicated reasons — to the point where ‘villain’ is hardly the right word.

Connecting secondary characters to the protagonist in ways that are clearly supportive (or at least, clear to me as I write) is something I need to work on. I have a tendency to throw in characters for no really good reason and then they just take up space on the page and they barely relate to the protagonist. (I should say I do this in novel-length works more than in short stories. Usually in a shorter piece, there just aren’t the words to include gratuitous characters.)

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